Packing Heat

Photograph a woman with her dog or a father watching TV with his daughter, and what do you have? A Hallmark image of companionship and affection. Insert a gun into that same tableau, and matters suddenly change
Depending on where your opinion falls, gun owners are patriots or thugs, paragons of self-reliance or paranoiacs. That’s the thing about guns. In other parts of the west, you see firearms here and there—in the rear windows of pickup trucks, in living room cabinets, on the hip of the occasional civilian. We all know there are plenty of armed criminals in L.A., but there are also tens of thousands of registered gun owners; they just keep a low profile here. So photographer Gregg Segal set out to make the invisible momentarily visible, capturing ordinary people at home with their guns. Whether collectors or self-protectors, they have one thing in common: They like their hardware.
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Kerbey Smith, 26 | Nanny, actress | Hollywood

Gun owned: A .380 revolver. Why: I’m a single woman in the city. My dad got it for me for my birthday. He wanted me to be safe. Learning to shoot: Growing up in Texas, me and my sisters used to go hunting with him when we were little girls. Last time you fired a gun: Maybe four months ago. I try to go regularly to the shooting range to keep the skills honed. Philosophy: Guns aren’t all bad if you know how to safely use them and if they’re used for the right purposes. It may just be in my mind, but having a gun truly does make me feel that if something ever happened, I’d be prepared. Mine is always kept in a locked box, and I hide the keys. I never take it out and show it to people. Gun-toting hero: Annie Oakley. She lived in a man’s world. It wasn’t proper for a lady to know how to shoot a gun. She defied all of that.

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Michael Minneman, 23 | Web developer | Downtown

Guns owned: A rifle and two 20-gauge shotguns. Why: My great-great-grandfather was a gunsmith. He actually made a couple of the guns. I got them passed down to me. I think the newest one is 60 years old. Last time you fired a gun: Four or five months ago, at the range. I go about three times a year. Could you use one in self-defense? I honestly don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t ever want to. I don’t really keep them for self-defense. I keep them locked up and the ammunition separate. Gun-toting hero: Hunter S. Thompson. He was very much into the gun culture. He was a collector and wrote about it in a lot of his work.

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David Au, 35, with wife Chikako | Property developer | Los Feliz

Guns owned: Dozens. I don’t know how many. I have a collection of Japanese World War II- era ri?es, some modern pistols. Why: It’s kind of a family hobby. My uncles got me into it. I’m fairly decent at shooting, and I’m fascinated with the mechanical stu?. I enjoy repairing and restoring them. Learning to shoot: I’ve had training in defensive pistol shooting. As a gift to me, a friend signed us up for a one-day course in Nevada before I got married. Last time you fired a gun: Two months ago. I went to the indoor range to shoot at paper targets with some friends. I took a modern pistol just for fun. Gun-toting hero: John Browning. He designed a lot of famous guns over 100 years ago, including the Colt .45 automatic pistol. Many of them are still popular.

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Rudy Villagrana, 46 | with daughter April | Out-of-work bouncer and marijuana dispensary security guard | Hacienda Heights

Guns owned: A British military rifle and a .45 handgun. Why: I just like ’em. I’ve hunted, though not in years. But home defense is why we have firearms. Philosophy: We got our guns legally. No matter how many laws people put on owning guns, the bad guys don’t heed those laws. They’re going to get guns any way they can. Last time you fired a gun: About a year and a half ago. There’s an indoor firing range about two miles from where I live. But it gets kind of pricey. Gun-toting hero: Ted Nugent. He has fun shooting his weapons, but he says if you kill an animal hunting, you should eat it. You shouldn’t kill an animal just to have its head on your wall.

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Karon Stocking, 45 | Retired SWAT officer, single mother, holistic therapist | Westlake Village

Gun owned: A .22 derringer. Why: I just feel like it’s always safe to keep one in the house. I have an appreciation for guns. Learning to shoot: I was taught by my dad when I was growing up in Michigan. And I was good at it from the first time I hit the target with a shotgun. On the job: SWAT teams are highly trained on tear gas, weapons, everything. We had to qualify every six months. I was a sharpshooter. Did you ever shoot anyone? No. Where I worked, in Grand Rapids, only one person was ever shot. Would you hesitate to use one in self-defense? No, not at all. Gun-toting hero: I had two growing up, because my dad and I used to watch Charles Bronson—all of the Death Wish series—and Clint Eastwood, particularly Sudden Impact.

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Steven Dean Lauria, 62 | Retired schoolteacher, bartender, aspiring actor | Altadena

Guns owned: A 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, a .22 semiautomatic pistol, and a .357 magnum pistol, which is my western quick-draw gun. Why: To better my chances of getting acting jobs. I’m a quick-draw artist. I was also in Vietnam, where I saw combat. I’m comfortable with guns. Learning to shoot: When I was a kid in the mid-’50s, my father lived in Lancaster for a while. He taught me bird hunting. Last time you fired a gun: About three years ago at a range in San Gabriel. I shot my .357 there. I’m still pretty good at it. Philosophy: If somebody’s coming after you and means you bodily harm and you pull a gun, you better use it. If you don’t, you’re dead. Gun-toting hero: Sammy Davis Jr. He could draw and shoot really fast. He also did tricks, spinning his pistol. He was sensational. It made me want to learn how.

Photographs by Gregg Segal